More U law

by Kelly Hildebrandt

Good theater, food and friends aren’t the only reasons Chris Kopka, a 1998 graduate of the Law School, decided to stay in Minnesota. He was also attracted by the opportunity Minneapolis firms offer graduates to get involved early on.
“I love Minnesota,” said Kopka, a Connecticut native. Kopka is an associate at the Gray Plant Mooty Mooty & Bennet law firm in Minneapolis.
While Kopka is among the majority of law students who stay in Minnesota, that number is decreasing.
According to statistics compiled by the Law School’s Career Services, about 40 percent of the 1997 graduates went out of state, opposed to 28 percent in 1994.
About 97 percent of 1997 graduates are employed. Of those graduates, the largest number of graduates — 47 percent — went into private practice, which is a firm of about 100 or more lawyers.
About 50 percent of the students at the University are Minnesotans, said Collins Byrd, director of admissions at the Law School. However, in recent years the percentage has started to lean more toward out-of-state students.
Byrd attributes the recent upswing in outstate recruits to recruiting style. Although they visit as many schools in Minnesota as possible, the state doesn’t germinate enough applications, so they recruit at more out-of-state schools. It is also more cost effective to hit a number of out-of-state universities than just one.
“The numbers that are going out of state is really a tribute to the Law School,” said Sharon Reich, an associate dean at the Law School. Reich added that many Minnesotans also return to Minnesota years later.
As a nationally ranked school, the Law School provides students the chance to leave Minnesota if they choose, said Susan Gainen, director of Career Services.
In a recent article in U.S News, “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” the University’s Law School ranked 18th out of 50 among private and public schools. Reich said in general, the school is ranked about fifth among public law schools.
Tanya Stanich, a 1997 graduate currently working at the New York firm, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, said she hasn’t looked back since she left Minnesota.
“I absolutely love it,” Stanich said of the Big Apple. Stanich said she returned to the East Coast because the quality of work in New York is better.
Stanich has seen much more work in the year and a half at her firm than many of her classmates. A newer lawyer on the East Coast has the opportunity to do top-of-the-line work with larger companies, which isn’t always available in the Midwest, she said.
“The work that I do is as exciting as the work that I would do on the East Coast,” Kopka said. He said although the Twin Cities has a smaller market, he works at a nationally renowned firm in the area of employee benefit law.
Gainen said although more students are passing state lines for other opportunities, Minnesota has remarkable lawyers and law firms.
“There are some students from Minnesota that can’t wait to leave and some come just for school and never leave,” Gainen said
Gainen said she personally collected the statistics by calling the parents of unresponsive graduates on Super Bowl Sunday to ensure the statistics would be correct.